Menu

Bush Declares Disaster in American Samoa

President Bush on Friday declared American Samoa (search) a major disaster area following Hurricane Olaf, which wiped out nearly all homes in at least one village in the Manua Islands.

Olaf, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Wednesday with sustained winds of 160 mph and gusts up to 190 mph. Waves up to 40 feet high hit some islands.

There were no reports of deaths on the islands, but two fishermen caught in the storm remained missing Friday. American Samoa's main island of Tutuila suffered minor damage, but the cyclone heavily damaged parts of the Manua Islands (search), which also are part of the territory.

Much of the Manua damage occurred in some villages on the island of Ta'u, including Fitiuta.

"Almost every house in Fitiuta is destroyed," said Howard Malpepei, a teacher at Manua High School, which suffered flooding and other damage. "Trees were snapped in half and some uprooted."

Crews were working to restore power to Ta'u, which needs electricity to pump water from underground wells. A 100,000-gallon water tank was nearly depleted, said Gov. Togiola Tulafono (search), who toured the ravaged islands.

Bush's declaration makes the territory, local governments and some nonprofit groups eligible for federal funds for direct assistance and other emergency measures, as well as debris removal and hazard mitigation, the White House said in a statement issued Friday.

American Samoa, the United States' southernmost territory, is about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii.